Project Maverick was one of the biggest files that ALERT’s Medicine Hat organized crime and gang team has ever handled. But it was almost over before it really began.
Investigator Sgt. Adam Gregory says that, when the file started in December 2017, it only targeted lower-level cocaine dealers in Medicine Hat. “Taking just a quick look at it, it looked like it would just be the one guy who was selling up to the ounce level of cocaine,” he said. “It nearly got concluded with a search warrant until surveillance started observing the target interacting with people we knew were higher-level drug traffickers.”
Those connections with bigger players kept the case open and, eventually, the team was able to arrest 10 people on 60 charges and seize nearly $200,000 in drugs, cash, stolen property and property obtained by crime, along with 14 firearms.
“Once we made those connections, we knew it was going to require patience, because the likelihood that it was going to grow as an investigation was obvious to us,” Gregory said.
However, the investigation was complicated by the fact that the suspects were well-educated on police techniques and were tough to catch off guard. “Every step we took, there was a lot of extra preparation and planning to make sure we didn’t get compromised early on in the file,” Gregory said.
But the Medicine Hat was team was able to call on other police agencies — including those from Medicine Hat, Taber, Edmonton and Calgary — to help out and come up with some outside-the-box solutions.
“Without these relationships, Project Maverick would not have proceeded the way it did. We would not have been able to achieve the same level of success without them,” Gregory said.
“On a day-to-day basis, we rely on our partnerships, and we are continually rewarded by having these positive contacts. These are things that I know are built over time and need to be sustained and worked on, and they can also deteriorate if they’re not worked on. We’re very lucky down here to have these relationships.”
While Gregory had worked on many drug investigations in the past, one of the magnitude of Project Maverick was a new experience for him and for many on the ALERT Medicine Hat team. He estimated it had been probably a decade since a similar investigation had been undertaken in the city.
“It was a big thing for our team to not only keep the patience to continue on, but accept the learning curve and know we’re going to be super-adaptable and willing to ride out the complete investigation,” Gregory said.
“This isn’t the type of work we do on a regular basis. Everybody really had to work hard every single day and put the time into this file to achieve success,” he added.
A major part of that success was being able to lay charges of instructing a criminal organization in this case. It’s a high bar to clear with prosecutors to lay those charges, but Gregory is proud of the work his team put in to meet that standard.
“It was very rewarding to us as a team; we don’t want that operating within our community. I know it was rewarding for the guys, and what they learned throughout the investigation was immense,” he said.